Are you suffering from eczema or treating the wrong infection?
Itchy and inflamed, eczema is among the most common skin conditions. But it might not be to blame for every unexplained rash or uncomfortable itch on your body. Several other conditions share similar symptoms and can wrongly be mistaken for eczema.
We explore three skin conditions that are often mistaken for eczema — scabies, psoriasis, and mycosis — to help better identify these problems and receive the right treatment.
Scabies is not an infection, nor a disease. It is an infestation of tiny mites.
Known as Sarcoptes Scabiei, these mites burrow and lay eggs in the outer layer of your skin. Your body reacts to the infestation, causing an intense itching sensation and an angry rash, which are often mistaken for symptoms of eczema.
The scabies rash is scaly, blistered, and covered in pimples. It’s also common to see many sores caused by scratching. That said, your body can take several weeks to react to a scabies infestation. So, early symptoms can be mistaken for mild acne and mosquito bites.
A notable give away of a scabies infestation is the visible appearance of track-like burrows in the skin. Typically, these are slightly raised greyish lines, created when female mites tunnel and lay eggs under the skin’s surface. Common places to spot a scabies infestation include between the fingers, head, neck, face, and palms — but they can appear anywhere.
The scabies mite is known to exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, but cannot be treated in the same way. When consulting a doctor or pharmacist, they will likely recommend a cream or lotion to apply over your entire body (unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding). Scabies is extremely infectious, so it’s important to wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50°C or higher following your first treatment.
Psoriasis vs. eczema: why are these skin conditions often mistaken for one another?
Let’s start by signposting that psoriasis and eczema are wholly different skin conditions, but their symptoms tend to be similar, especially to the untrained eye. Both cause red blotches, and both can appear in flare-ups all over the body.
The key difference between psoriasis and eczema is the sensation they impose on your skin. Eczema is intensely itchy and can cause your skin to bleed; psoriasis is itchy too, but you’re more likely to experience a burning or stinging sensation comparable to fire ants.
Moreover, despite both conditions causing red blotches on your skin, there are subtle differences between the two rashes. A typical eczema rash might be scaly, crusty or oozing, as well as leathery and swollen. Psoriasis, on the other hand, can be all these things, but on closer inspection, your skin appears thicker and more inflamed.
Unlike skin conditions like scabies, psoriasis can be managed alongside eczema using the same treatments. It’s important to keep your skin moisturized and use ointments (not creams) to avoid exacerbating the irritation. Address severe symptoms with topical corticosteroids like Betnovate or Eurovate to slow the build-up of skin cells. These treatments should be used sparingly, so consult a medical expert for further advice.
Eczema and mycosis both cause redness and itching, but the latter can be contagious.
Mycosis is a microscopic fungus invisible to the naked eye. It typically grows (multiplies) between skin folds, fingernails, and hair. There are two types of fungi commonly confused with eczema because they cause legions on the skin — yeasts and dermatophytes.
Yeasts come from mucous membranes such as your mouth, causing legions around these areas. Dermatophytes, on the other hand, are parasitic fungi targeting keratin on the body. This often appears on fingernails and hair, as well as your skin.
Patches of mycosis can appear similar to an eczema rash, particularly around the hands where they might seem identical. But they are different. Mycosis patches are clear and dermatophytes have round edges. The areas of the body mycosis tend to affect are also atypical of eczema, namely underarms, genitals, and diaper regions for infants.
It’s important to know the difference between mycosis and eczema. Why? Because effective eczema treatments like topical corticosteroids are ineffective against mycosis. For that reason, it’s essential to contact a dermatologist or medical expert who will prescribe a more suitable treatment. This will likely be some form of anti-fungal medication that kills the mycosis and prevents the fungi from growing back.
While eczema is a common and persistent skin condition, it’s not to blame for every rash and itch on your body. From an infestation of scabies mites to awkward fungal infections — these are the skin conditions that are often mistaken for eczema and how to treat them.